PITTSTON — Even if you’ve never heard of Milazzo Industries Inc., it’s likely you may have used one of its most popular products or can recall the company’s slogan, “Uh oh, better get the Qik Joe!”
The fourth-generation business has been manufacturing Qik Joe ice melt since 1969 and has created 10 different varieties of the product.
“The original Qik Joe is basically the same product we’ve always had on the market,” said Joe Milazzo, company president. “We developed a lot of proprietary products in the ice melt industry that cater to different needs of both consumer and commercial users. It’s been a very successful product that has continued to grow.”
The Safe Pet Ice Melter will not burn or cause irritation to animals and the Sure Grip Ice Melt is enhanced with superior traction crystals.
According to Milazzo, the company typically produces in excess of 20,000 tons of ice melt each year.
“It’s a blending process,” he said. “Some of our products are coated with special proprietary products and others are enhanced with glycol and different products to give them the ability to work at lower temperatures or work faster.”
While most of the business’ revenue comes from local sources, the company has expanded its reach far beyond Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“We sell our products across the United States,” Milazzo said. “We started in a very local market and expanded throughout the state of Pennsylvania, then into New York and New Jersey. As time has gone on, especially over the last 15 to 20 years, the product has excelled and found its way into the Midwest, West Coast and even some international business. It’s all great, but we’re still most profitable within 50 miles of our plant.”
Although there are many brands of ice melt and cheaper alternatives, Milazzo, of Jenkins Township, believes Qik Joe’s effectiveness speaks for itself.
“It’s heat generating which enables it to boar through ice,” he said. “It’s also safer on lawns and concrete. I think the proof is in the performance of the product.”
The company also produces three types of charcoal. Qik Joe Instant Light Charcoal was introduced in the early 1950s by Joe Milazzo Sr. and Lake Shore Premium Charcoal Briquets and Lake Shore Natural Hardwood Charcoal were added in the 1970s.
“There have been peaks and valleys in the charcoal industry,” Milazzo said. “Right now, sales are up. I think the consumer values the flavor of charcoal over gas or electric. A lot of people dub themselves as backyard chefs and using various types of wood and charcoal for smoking meats is very popular.
“With charcoal being a very seasonal product, my father looked for another product to offset the seasonality of the charcoal and developed the Qik Joe ice melt,” he said.
According to Milazzo, the company experienced its best year in 2015. He credits the more than 40 employees for helping the operation run smoothly.
“We have great employees and great products, and that equation works,” he said.
Despite several setbacks, including a fire in 1984 that destroyed two-thirds of the facility and a flood in 2011 that caused a major loss of inventory and equipment and damaged buildings, the business continues to thrive.
“The ability to overcome those setbacks says a lot about the company and its employees,” Milazzo said. “Without our employees, we’d find it very difficult to be as successful as we are. Many of our employees have been with us for more than 20 years.”
One example is Rick Pocceschi, of Pittston, who has been an employee of Milazzo Industries for 42 years.
“They have always treated me like family,” Pocceschi said of the Milazzos.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.